Foreign endorsement: China opens consulate in South Australia

By David Russell

South Australia’s export economy has received a glowing endorsement, with the opening of a Chinese consulate general in Adelaide.

Premier Jay Weatherill said yesterday the consulate represents a significant lifting of the relationship between China and South Australia.

This is the highest level of diplomatic office that a state government can be afforded by a foreign country,” he said.

“It will be a substantial office that will have political, cultural and economic attachés associated with it.”

The consulate is currently being temporarily housed at the Overseas Chinese Association in Findon, which provides language and welfare services to Chinese South Australians. Inside South Australia understands the temporary consulate is being staffed by around seven Chinese diplomats until a purpose-built consulate is constructed in the Adelaide CBD, when staff will grow to 25.

The opening of the consulate comes after South Australia sent it’s biggest ever delegation to China in May 2015. Key outcomes from the delegation to Shandong province include:

    • Bank of China branch to open at 1 King William St, Adelaide in early 2016
    • Gov negotiating with Chinese carriers to promote direct flights from Adelaide to Shandong
    • $12m Balco deal to sell hay to China 
    • Negotiations progressing for $1m Stehr Group fresh tuna deal

One of the businesses represented in that delegation was Iron Road, which owns the Central Eyre Iron Project. Iron Road is proposing an open-pit mine near Wudinna, a rail line, and a large port at Cape Hardy near Cowell, through which it will export the ore.

“We have an unusual type of ore here… (which is) ideally suited to the Chinese market,” he said. “It is also high quality, so it improves efficiency and gives off a lot less in terms of emissions,” says Iron Road Managing Director Andrew Stocks.

“From our point of view direct contact with (the Chinese) government right here in Adelaide is very valuable. And for our (Chinese) joint venture partners, they may have questions they don’t want to ask us, but they can get independent advice from the consulate.”

The Chinese consulate general forms part of a free trade deal signed between China and Australia in June 2015. The deal means substantial tariffs will be lifted from food and wine products exported to China. China is South Australia’s biggest trading partner, with food and wine making up a significant proportion of those exports.